The Most Ridiculous Thing I’ve Ever Done for Money

Okay, this title is total clickbait, I’ll admit it, but with the Christmas season upon us, I figured now would be the perfect time to reminisce about the seasonal job I’ve had for the last two years – elfing.  Yes, I was one of Santa’s elves at the local mall.

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I got into the job through my friend and fellow elf, Heather, back in 2016.  I believe she saw an ad through the mall’s Facebook page searching for two elves to assist with their annual Santa photos at the mall.  She contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in doing it with her, as we love dressing up for Halloween and putting together elaborate costumes (see our group photo as the cast of “Clue” from Halloween 2016; getting to be Professor Plum was a dream come true for me!).  I figured it would be a fun opportunity to spend time with Heather and make a little extra money around Christmas, so I agreed.

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Visiting Santa was free and parents could take photos with their phones for free, but if they wanted to buy a printed picture, we would take the picture and print it for $5 per photo.  Our job was to keep the line moving, take photos as needed, and hopefully keep kids from crying too much while sitting on Santa’s lap.  We had never met Blake, the mall Santa before, but we ended up getting along great with him.  He is about our age and has a similar sense of humor, so we shared many laughs.

Now, for the financial aspect of the job – we were paid $10/hour, working for 5 hours per day on both Saturday and Sunday for 3 weekends in a row, earning about $300 minus taxes for the season.  We were also able to get a free lunch and pop from a pizza place in the mall for each shift we worked.  A handful of times, parents didn’t want to buy a printed photo but insisted on tipping us for our efforts, so we would share that money as well.  It definitely didn’t pay great and was a total time suck for the three weekends in December, but we made it fun, took entertaining photos of ourselves, and it makes for a good story now.

Through this job, we also ended up being fairies for the Easter Bunny in the spring (I have no idea what a fairy has to do with the Easter Bunny, but our jobs were the same – assist the star of the show with seeing kids, take photos as needed, and collect money for the printed photos with the Easter Bunny).  Blake was unavailable to be the Easter Bunny, so another friend of ours filled the role instead.

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The mall management recently changed hands, and I don’t know the new manager, so it’s possible we won’t be asked to work again this year, but even if we are asked, it’s unlikely we’ll go back unless they agree to pay us more.  Santa made about twice as much as we did, so it’s probably worth it for him, but giving up our entire weekends for $10/hour isn’t much incentive.  Sure, they could probably get a couple of high school kids to do the job for minimum wage, but they tried that the year before us and they couldn’t be relied on to show up.  You get what you pay for, and when you hire two professional, working adults to be your elves, it might cost you a little bit more.  Last year, we practically had to beg the mall manager to let us each get a free lunch out of the deal as well.  Additionally, we hated charging for the photos we took because neither the camera nor printer were of high quality.  With the impressive cameras some cell phones are equipped with now, parents are better off just taking their own and saving the $5, which we mentioned to the previous mall manager.  It’s like we formed our own little North Pole union. 🙂

Overall, this wasn’t a horrible job, and it served its purpose.  Now that I don’t have a pile of student loan debt to pay off, I’m a little more selective with my time and energy.  I’m looking forward to hopefully having a more relaxing December this year.

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